Arctic SnowHotel – positioning a new company
How can a brand-new company find its place in the market? As a company established a couple of years ago, Arctic SnowHotel was not entirely familiar with the characteristics and structure of the tourism market. Thus, in collaboration with the ITPD project, a variety of topics were addressed and discussed: from contractual practices in the industry, entrepreneurial identity and product diversity to global tourist practices. The most interesting perspective in this case was how a company works towards identifying the core of its product and the added value it brings to its operating environment.
As the co-operation with the ITPD project started, the company was just renewing its marketing communication (e.g. website, brochures). The situation could not have been better for looking at product development within the company. In conversations with the business couple, attention was usually drawn towards reflections on how every winter an impressive, picturesque snow and ice complex can emerge on empty barren ground. These conversations helped to realize what makes this product special and different from other similar products such as hotels, programme service companies and other ice and snow constructions. By mulling over these questions, the company can define its own place within its operating environment and learn how to live with it.
The co-operation between Arctic SnowHotel and the ITPD project was based on regular meetings with the business couple, especially with the person in charge of the construction of the hotel. In addition, by combining different methods (e.g. non-participative observation, digital photography, discussions, video recording and note-taking), ITPD researchers followed the construction of the hotel from an artistic, technical and commercial point of view. The researchers extended the analysis of the product by conducting a non-participative observation of a charter programme implemented during the Christmas season in the yard of the Snow Manor (main log building). While Arctic SnowHotel offered the venue for the programme, a business partner was responsible for its entire implementation. In the meetings, the business couple openly talked about the foundation, principles and objectives of their business, putting in evidence the versatile daily life of small entrepreneurs and the way product development is done in this particular company. All this helped to shed light on the identity of the company with its operating environment as well as on the elements that make its product special.
The conversations primarily focused on discussing the challenges posed by ice and snow as construction materials and the special knowledge needed to work with them. The entrepreneur in charge of the construction told with passion about the different construction phases, technical solutions and concrete examples such as the use of an accurate plan of action and a time schedule based on working minutes that was supposed to assess the efficiency of the construction project. In this company, product development was strongly linked to the development of the construction process and practices: how to build faster, efficiently and in such a way that the structures endure the spring heat of the sun for as long as possible. In addition to the design of the space, product development efforts focus on determining the location of the buildings in the yard and planning the service space and thus the product experience as whole.
The co-operation with Arctic SnowHotel offered the ITPD project an extended and versatile perspective on product development. Product development can also be space design and the creation of the framework supporting the product. Both are important since they outline, limit and define the product and the meaningful experiences – service encounters. Together with the ITPD researchers the business couple was able to critically explore their feelings, test their business vision and confirm the viability of their business idea. In small companies, such a process can be seen in a therapeutic sense. In addition, the parallel planning of the marketing communication with an advertising agency served as a good point of reference for discussing what the company wants to be and how it wants to be experienced in the marketplace.